Le Mans 24 Hours: Lopez leads after Toyotas battle, Laurent crashes

The #7 Toyota remained in the lead of the Le Mans 24 Hours at the end of the seventh hour, but only after repassing the sister #8 car on track

Le Mans 24 Hours: Lopez leads after Toyotas battle, Laurent crashes

Kazuki Nakajima took advantage of a slow zone, during which rain was falling lightly, to stop and switch to new set of slick tyres in the #8.

On-track leader Jose Maria Lopez stopped a lap later - after the slow zone had ended - in anticipation of switching to intermediates, only for Toyota to send him back out on the same tyres.

Stopping under green-flag conditions meant the #7 slipped behind its sister TS050 HYBRID for the first time in the race, although Lopez caught back up to Nakajima before a safety car period was caused by the #3 Rebellion of Thomas Laurent crashing heavily.

Lopez then passed Nakajima on-track, and was still ahead at the end of the hour after both cars had made subsequent pitstops.

Laurent's crash at the start of the hour also shook up the battle for the final podium position.

The #3 Rebellion had lost ground in the fifth hour with a slow pitstop, but by the end of the following hour it had caught the #11 SMP Racing BR Engineering-AER BR1 for third.

Laurent then completed a brilliant overtake on Mikhail Aleshin that started around the outside of the Porsche Curves and ended at Corvette to claim third in the opening minutes of the seventh hour.

But minutes later the Rebellion-Gibson R-13 was in the barrier when Laurent went off in the braking zone for the second chicane on the Mulsanne straight.

The #3 squirrelled left under braking, then snapped hard right into the barrier, ripping off the Rebellion's nose - part of which ended up on the front of the #11 SMP car.

Aleshin's subsequent off-sequence pitstop, to remove the debris from the front of the car, allowed the #17 car to move into third.

The two cars ended the hour separated by eight seconds, although they had been much closer for much of the hour.

Remarkably, the safety-car period resulting from Laurent's crash allowed the Rebellion crew to take the #3 into the garage and return it to the track three minutes later without losing another lap to the Toyotas or its SMP rivals, and Laurent ended the hour in fifth place.

The sister #1 car remained out of trouble but is four laps down in Neel Jani's hands in sixth.

The two other privateers - the #4 ByKolles ENSO CLM-Gibson P1/01 and the #10 DragonSpeed - had been consigned to the pits for a significant amount of time at the end of the hour and are respectively 57th and 60th in the order.

LMP2 - Vergne restores G-Drive's first place

The ding-dong battle between G-Drive Racing and Signatech-Alpine swung back in favour of the former in the seventh hour, as Jean-Eric Vergne retook the lead from Andre Negrao.

Having taken the lead from G-Drive's Roman Rusinov in the sixth hour, Negrao managed his three-second advantage until the 11th round of pitstops, when Vergne returned to the cockpit for the first time since hour three.

Vergne used his fresh Dunlops to good advantage and quickly closed on Negrao, who was doing his third stint, taking the lead shortly before the end of the hour on the run to Indianapolis.

His lead margin at the hour mark stood at 1.5s.

Ho-Pin Tung narrowly holds onto third place in his #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing ORECA, having been unable to shake Anthony Davidson's DragonSpeed ORECA since passing the Briton at the start of the hour.

Both cars benefitted from a fortuitously-timed ending of the slow zone, gaining around 40s on the leading pair with the return to green just after Negrao and Rusinov had passed through it.

Tung was 52s off the lead at the hour mark, with Davidson 3.7s in arrears.

The second DC Racing ORECA of Ricky Taylor reclaimed fifth place from Filipe Albuequerque's United Autosports Ligier when the Portuguese was served with a drivethrough penalty for overtaking before the restart line following the safety car period.

GTE - Porsche holds lead after safety bunches pack

Porsche maintained the lead of the GTE Pro class at the end of the seventh hour, as Kevin Estre eked out a three-second advantage in the #92 Manthey-run 911 RSR.

Estre managed to gradually ease away from the #51 Ferrari, which was taken over by Alessandro Pier Guidi, after the safety car period bunched the lead nine runners together, which allowed some cars that had lost out in the previous hour to rejoin the lead fight.

The sole remaining #63 Corvette continued to run third in the hands of Antonio Garcia, as the sister #64 car that had been involved in a heavy crash in the previous hour was officially declared a retirement, the first of the race.

Nick Tandy pitted the #93 Porsche from fourth seconds before the hour was up, which meant that position was held by Harry Tincknell's Ford ahead of Ryan Briscoe's sister machine.

Tandy resumed in sixth place ahead of the #91 Porsche of Gianmaria Bruni and the second of the AF Corse Ferraris, the #71 of Davide Rigon.

Keating Motorsports continued to enjoy a comfortable lead of more than a minute with its privateer Ford GT in GTE Am, as Jeroen Bleekemolen stayed on board.

Jeff Segal's JMW Motorsport Ferrari was just shy of 90s clear of the Team Project 1 Porsche of Jorg Bergmeister in the fight for second in class.

Positions after seven hours

Pos Class Car Drivers Laps Gap
1 LMP1 #7 Toyota Conway, Kobayashi, Lopez 111
2 LMP1 #8 Toyota Buemi, Nakajima, Alonso 111 + 58.386s
3 LMP1 #17 BR Sarrazin, Orudzhev, Sirotkin 110 + 1 Lap
4 LMP1 #11 BR Petrov, Aleshin, Vandoorne 110 + 8.544s
5 LMP1 #3 Rebellion Laurent, Berthon, Menezes 109 + 2 Laps
6 LMP1 #1 Rebellion Jani, Lotterer, Senna 107 + 4 Laps
7 LMP2 #26 Aurus Rusinov, Van Uitert, Vergne 106 + 5 Laps
8 LMP2 #36 Alpine Lapierre, Negrao, Thiriet 106 + 1.020s
9 LMP2 #38 Oreca Tung, Richelmi, Aubry 106 + 52.093s
10 LMP2 #31 Oreca Gonzalez, Maldonado, Davidson 106 + 55.878s
11 LMP2 #37 Oreca Heinemeier-Hansson, King, Taylor 105 + 6 Laps
12 LMP2 #22 Ligier Hanson, Albuquerque, Di Resta 105 + 14.104s
13 LMP2 #39 Oreca Gommendy, Capillaire, Hirschi 105 + 1m39.352s
14 LMP2 #32 Ligier Cullen, Brundle, Owen 105 + 2m06.013s
15 LMP2 #28 Oreca Perrodo, Vaxiviere, Duval 105 + 2m08.939s
16 LMP2 #48 Oreca Lafargue, Chatin, Rojas 105 + 2m10.165s
17 LMP2 #23 Ligier Binder, Canal, Stevens 104 + 7 Laps
18 LMP2 #29 Dallara Van Eerd, Van Der Garde, De Vries 104 + 1m08.006s
19 LMP2 #25 Oreca Zollinger, Pizzitola, Falb 104 + 2m18.060s
20 LMP2 #30 Oreca Jamin, Ragues, Dumas 103 + 8 Laps
21 LMP2 #47 Dallara Lacorte, Sernagiotto, Belicchi 103 + 42.150s
22 LMP2 #34 Ligier Smiechowski, Winslow, Moore 103 + 1m04.652s
23 LMP2 #50 Ligier Creed, Ricci, Boulle 103 + 3m18.571s
24 LMP2 #43 Oreca Farano, Maini, Nato 102 + 9 Laps
25 LMP2 #49 Ligier Konopka, Enqvist, Tereschenko 100 + 11 Laps
26 LMP2 #20 Oreca Fjordbach, Andersen, Beche 100 + 1m10.342s
27 GTE Pro #92 Porsche Christensen, Estre, Vanthoor 99 + 12 Laps
28 GTE Pro #51 Ferrari Pier Guidi, Calado, Serra 99 + 3.996s
29 GTE Pro #63 Chevrolet Magnussen, Garcia, Rockenfeller 99 + 6.733s
30 GTE Pro #93 Porsche Pilet, Bamber, Tandy 98 + 13 Laps
31 GTE Pro #67 Ford Priaulx, Tincknell, Bomarito 98 + 3.625s
32 GTE Pro #69 Ford Briscoe, Westbrook, Dixon 98 + 6.832s
33 GTE Pro #68 Ford Hand, Muller, Bourdais 98 + 10.529s
34 GTE Pro #91 Porsche Lietz, Bruni, Makowiecki 98 + 1m06.236s
35 GTE Pro #71 Ferrari Rigon, Bird, Molina 98 + 1m11.194s
36 GTE Pro #94 Porsche Muller, Jaminet, Olsen 98 + 2m35.686s
37 GTE Pro #95 Aston Thiim, Sorensen, Turner 98 + 2m40.158s
38 GTE Pro #97 Aston Martin, Lynn, Adam 98 + 2m58.525s
39 GTE Pro #82 BMW Farfus, Da Costa, Krohn 98 + 2m59.789s
40 GTE Pro #81 BMW Catsburg, Tomczyk, Eng 98 + 3m47.690s
41 GTE Pro #66 Ford Mucke, Pla, Johnson 98 + 3m49.153s
42 GTE Pro #89 Ferrari Derani, Jarvis, Gounon 97 + 14 Laps
43 GTE Am #85 Ford Keating, Bleekemolen, Fraga 97 + 3m24.413s
44 GTE Am #84 Ferrari Segal, Baptista, Lu 96 + 15 Laps
45 GTE Am #56 Porsche Bergmeister, Lindsey, Perfetti 96 + 1m26.999s
46 GTE Am #90 Aston Yoluc, Hankey, Eastwood 96 + 1m49.070s
47 LMP1 #4 Enso Dillmann, Webb, Ruberti 95 + 16 Laps
48 GTE Am #61 Ferrari Perez-Companc, Griffin, Cressoni 95 + 6m16.999s
49 GTE Am #77 Porsche Campbell, Ried, Andlauer 95 + 6m44.007s
50 GTE Am #62 Ferrari Macneil, Vilander, Smith 95 + 6m52.623s
51 GTE Am #78 Porsche Prette, Prette, Abril 95 + 8m41.245s
52 GTE Am #86 Porsche Wainwright, Barker, Preining 95 + 10m03.627s
53 GTE Am #83 Ferrari Gostner, Frey, Gatting 95 + 10m03.772s
54 GTE Am #57 Ferrari Kimura, Cozzolino, Ledogar 94 + 17 Laps
55 GTE Am #70 Ferrari Ishikawa, Beretta, Cheever 94 + 1m04.190s
56 GTE Am #54 Ferrari Flohr, Castellacci, Fisichella 94 + 2m20.258s
57 GTE Am #60 Ferrari Schiavoni, Pianezzola, Piccini 93 + 18 Laps
58 GTE Am #98 Aston Dalla Lana, Lamy, Lauda 86 + 25 Laps
59 GTE Am #88 Porsche Hoshino, Roda Jr, Cairoli 79 + 32 Laps
60 LMP1 #10 BR Hedman, Hanley, Van Der Zande 74 + 37 Laps
61 GTE Pro #64 Chevrolet Gavin, Milner, Fassler 82 + 29 Laps
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